Army Staff Sgt. Shane Fraze prepares a dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.

Army Staff Sgt. Shane Fraze prepares a dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (Matthew Keeler/Stars and Stripes)

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TOKYO – The winter coronavirus surge in Japan’s capital city slackened Wednesday, and the U.S. military in Japan reported a relative handful of new cases by 6 p.m.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 973 new cases Wednesday, according to public broadcaster NHK. The number of severely ill patients was up to 159.

Although 973 was considered a high daily total in December, a third wave of the virus reached a record high of 2,447 new patients on Jan. 7, according to metro government data. The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases on Tuesday stood at 1,088.

The U.S. military reported nine new coronavirus patients, seven with U.S. Army Japan and two at Yokota Air Base, the headquarters in western Tokyo of U.S. Forces Japan.

The Army said one person tested positive for COVID-19, the coronavirus respiratory disease, during a pre-travel screening; a second was identified as a close contact of another infected person and the remaining five were tested while quarantined as new arrivals to Japan.

A Yokota Facebook post said both its new cases are individuals “identified and quarantined” by public health authorities at the base between Saturday and Tuesday but provided no further information.

In South Korea, the Army’s Yongsan Garrison in Seoul planned to exit a shelter-in-place order Thursday. The installation commander, Col. Ellis Baker, ordered the lockdown Jan. 16 after 20 people there, or who had traveled there, contracted the virus.

The post exchange, restaurants at the Dragon Hill Lodge and fitness centers there and at ancillary posts will reopen, with a strict mask requirement, Baker said in a video message posted Wednesday on Facebook. More shops at the lodge and services on base will open on Friday.

At Camp Humphreys, south of Seoul, some U.S. troops lined up Wednesday for their second round of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at the Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital.

“It's been a long time in coming and I think it's a wonder of modern science that we've gotten here this quickly,” said Lt. Col. Brian Cohee, a pulmonary and critical care physician who was the first to receive the vaccine at Humphreys on Dec. 29.

“It's nice to get the second shot and know that I'm getting more immunity now,” he said. “I feel like just getting that first shot and having the initial boost has made a big difference in my confidence taking care of these patients.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Matthew Keeler contributed to this report. Twitter: @JosephDitzler

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Joseph Ditzler is a Marine Corps veteran and the Pacific editor for Stars and Stripes. He’s a native of Pennsylvania and has written for newspapers and websites in Alaska, California, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. He studied journalism at Penn State and international relations at the University of Oklahoma.

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